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We have what appears to be a 4 hour morning excursion to Keukenhof with "lunch on your own". It seems that there are several pavilions with terraces overlooking the gardens each with varied places to eat. I have mixed feelings about taking time for lunch when our time is so limited there. In the past we have brought fruit and snacks from the ship and made our own "picnic" on certain excursions just to save time.
With that in mind, what is the best way to get the most out of our limited time there from those who have been on this excursion before?
There are food vendors who sell from carts (or kiosks) in various parts of the gardens. We bought pretzel sandwiches with ham and cheese next to the windmill. There were places to sit nearby to eat. We also bought some amazing strawberries near the entrance/exit area. You will be fine, and if it is a nice day you will definitely want to be out in the gardens as much as possible, although the indoor exhibits are amazing too.
It was quite chilly when we were there last April, and so we did eat inside the one pavilion, just to get a bit of a warm-up. It was like a cafeteria line, with lots of choices from sandwiches to full meals. We were in and out w/in 30 min., and took advantage of the nice restroom there as well.
If the flowers are fully in bloom and you have <4 hours -- SKIP LUNCH. Seriously. There is so much to see -- walking in reminded me of the kids in the Willie Wonka movie (the original). It was overwhelming in beauty. I spent every single minute taking pictures and taking in the surroundings. You can eat when you get back to the ship or . . . whatever.
We had a choice of a 2 1/2 hr tour there or 5 hrs. We chose 5 hrs and I know we still didn't see everything. I would have skipped lunch, but my hubby would have been so cranky, it would not have been worth it.
We also had a choice of a shorter or a longer stay.... And opted for a longer one.
You can take a short break (ie: 5 - 10 minutes) and sit and look at the all the flowers.
The problem with not stopping even for a few minutes is that it is a long time from breakfast to dinner.... with lots of walking in the day. I too would be cranky without something to "recharge my batteries".
On our upcoming Uniworld trip, I don't think there is an option to stay longer because we are slated for Zaanse Schans in the afternoon unless they give you the option of skipping it (which would be great, because I have been there before and found it to be crowded and touristy).
My feeling is that if we eat a substantial breakfast, we could grab an ice cream somewhere and certainly be fine until dinner!
If you are there for 8 hours, there's plenty of time to see everything and have a nice lunch. I vaguely recall a restaurant at the entrance. For those who have less time but need a "sugar fix" during the day, there is a gift shop that must sell food and I'm sure there are "fast food" options (ice cream, etc.) that will take the edge off.
If it's a nice day . . . eat on the run and see the flowers.
One tip . . . get there as early as you can. The crowds have yet to arrive and there are many more opportunities to see everything and get great photos. Likewise, wait to eat until the crowds arrive -- they will be seeing the flowers and the food stations won't be as crowded.
One other (unsolicited) suggestion . . . spend $250 on a good camera. Not $2500 but, $250. There are some WONDERFUL pictures to be taken and it helps if you have a camera that can zoom in on the flowers and bees and . . . When I took my photos to the camera shop to be developed (about 8 yrs ago!), they thought my photos were professional grade. And I have no photo training. What I'm saying is that, if you have a "decent" camera (10+ digital zoom), you can take some amazing shots.
The advice to get there as early as possible is correct but when you are using a cruise line excursion, you get there when they get there.
Our excursion went in the a.m. for about 3-4 hours. That was not nearly enough time to see and enjoy all that is Keukenhof. As Master Gardeners, next time we visit the Netherlands in the spring, we will visit Keukenhof on our own and spend the entire day or perhaps several days. It is just spectacular!
If possible, visit a grocery store on a stop the day before (we were able to purchase snacks and beverages in some of the towns visited,) or take something from your ship's breakfast buffet to snack on later (something like a roll and cheese or cold cuts.) We barely had enough time to walk the Keukenhof perimeter and buy a pictorial guide before our excursion returned to the boat.
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Along those lines, several of our cruise mates plan on arriving in Amsterdam a day early and going to Keukenhof on their own in addition to the ship's excursion the following day. Wine girl, I like your idea of cheese and crackers, etc. from the breakfast buffet, and finding a secluded picnic spot...very romantic!
We were there last year in April and found we really needed a break from the wind and wet to warm up so we stopped to eat. Viking is one of the lines that gives you a choice of short or longer tour. Even with the weather we used all the time on the longer stop.
Here is part of a response that I posted to another question. I followed this lady last year and this as she has weekly updates with photos to show what is blooming and when. Your options will be weather dependent but we hope you enjoy your visit and have a chance to enjoy it outdoors as well.
The lovely lady is local and has shared Keukenhof photos and blooming info weekly during the garden season for the past several years. She updates each Friday, I believe. She has two postings this season so far. We were at the gardens last year on April 9 and it was too early in our estimation. The area fields had daffodils and hyacinths because it was too early for tulips. Viking gives you your choice of a half day tour or staying longer and returning to the boat on a later afternoon bus. Dress warmly as even the display buildings are drafty and chilly. There were lovely potted displays inside.
We will be there on April 15th. I hope we don't get beat up twice in one day day. Once by the IRS and once by Winter.
American Hawaii Lines SS Constitution - Hawaiian Islands 1984
Carnival Fantasy - Inaugural Cruise Bahamas 1990
Premier SS Oceanic (Big Red Boat) - Bahamas/Disney World 1992
Commodore Cruise Lines SS Enchanted Isle - Western Caribbean 1995
Carnival Tropicale - Western Caribbean 2001
Holland America Line Zuiderdam - Mediterranean 2008
Holland America Line Statendam - Alaska 2009
Uniworld River Beatrice - Danube Cruise/Paris 2011
Uniworld River Ambassador - Rhine Cruise/Brussels 2013
As you can see I have put several cruise lines out of business.
Tarheel, we will board the Ambassador on April 17th and go to Keukenhof with them on the 19th. If there is anything we need to know at the last minute, post it on here if you can get wifi or if you have the time!